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booktv recently sought with michael skerker of the u.s. naval academy to talk about his book an ethics of interrogation. this interview is part of book tv's college series. it's about 20 minutes. >> you are watching book tv on c-span2. one of the things we do in booktv is visit campuses around the country. it gives us a chance to talk with professors who are also authors and today we are at the u.s. naval academy in annapolis maryland and joining us is the author of this book, michael skerker an ethics of interrogation is the name of the book. published by the university of chicago press. professor skerker, what do you do with theb academy? >> i teach the ethics class all the youngsters have to take and a number to loss of one studies to request to reduce the ethics of interrogation in your book is the philosophical books worth
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how to interrogate?y >> guest: >> it is the principal question number one circumstances can the state asked.yyyyyyy then there are some practical dos and don'ts as well. >> what is the geneva convention that we always talk about? spec the geneva convention to protect the.yyyyyyy what role does it play inyyy interrogation?yyyyyyyyy >> rot much of the history ofy warfare the retreats and at the mercy of their captors which is bad now. there was the sense that pows should be treated better that these soldiers were not blamed for the unjust war which.
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after world war ii it really codify the pows shouldn't be prosecuted for their ordinary conduct and they should be not punished which operationally meant that they should be treated in condition to read is there and in interrogation? >> it says detainees cannot be hartford so that's been crashed out in the terms to say you can't to the coercive techniques. you can't be threatening them with a loss of privileges if you feel to cooperate with the interrogator you can't have your food or medical care taken away and can't be physically abused in any kind of way.
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>> professor skerker, when a is interrogation immoral? >> i would say any time physical methods are used for a couple reasons. first of all whether it is a law enforcement to usually they are a suspected combatant. it's not known for certain the they've done anything but meriting. so if you start torture and people you are punishing people who may very well be innocent and in counterinsurgency gyrations more often than not the interrogators. or a confirmed say al qaeda member for alana non-game of member. you've seen the interrogation
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lampert you can only be violent with people in assets the only way to. so you are acting disproportionately. dole is even more restrictive and says quite clearly with any detainee whether it is a domestic criminal suspect or p.o.w. or suspected international setting you can't use mental torture, you can't subject a person to cruel or degrading punishment or treatment of any type. >> professor skerker, do you agree with the current u.s. law on interrogations? >> yes because they are
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restrictive in the sense that domestic suspects have the right to remain silent which is appropriate. protection is afforded to suspected irregular combatants less specific. i think they should be afforded the council which is not always done. he probably a might be a terrorist and you should have the same kind of protections against the wrongful suspicion in the convention. >> host: to the cause the mchugh used the word domestic is there a difference between domestic, citizens, enemy
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combatants and what are the regular combatants? >> sure. their regular combatant is a person it's part of an organized group using violence for political ends that's either not part of a conventional combat unit probably not wearing uniform, not equipped by a state. this combatant might be serving a failed state and therefore fighting the insurgency or they might be a rebel group like in syria fighting fun government or they might be fighting a foreign occupation. in that respect, they are not representing an internationally recognized state but they are recognizing some kind of nation state or potential state. you could have conventional soldiers and these were the tactics may be operating out of uniform outside of the logistics
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training of conventional military using guerrilla tactics and booby traps and things like that. and for american citizens though are the projections different were stronger? >> okay so i would argue that in terms of human rights, people have the same set of human rights which include rights against arbitrary detention, rights against the abuse and to retain privacy and refuse personal questions asked by strangers. what i do think is different is the power of government different groups of people, so if you are a law enforcement agency you have more liberty to act in certain ways against citizens of your own country versus foreign citizens because there's a justification for the police to interrogate near you if they suspect you of wrongdoing because ultimately they are trying to protect all
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of us and create a crime free environment for americans. if the u.s. state agency see pakistani or yemen were afghan citizens they are not operating to protect or suppress the crime of those countries directing in the u.s. interest so they can't claim to be acting in the interest of the afghan herger when they see a man the bundled him off and put him nsl for days and days and days so they are more limited, they have less justification for doing what they are doing. they have more liberty of operating working with domestic citizens. >> professor skerker, waterboarding became a big issue a couple years ago in iraq and afghanistan war is waterboarding in morrill? >> i believe this. it's been used against someone who isn't being violent. further the assumption is that
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this fiscal discomfort like somebody speak the truth there is no correlation to and causing pain or discomfort or making somebody speak the truth is there for it is disproportionate and disconnected you are hurting somebody in the hope they reveal to you the truth and morality is any time you use christa techniques more than likely or not you're doing it on an innocent person who will then no doubt speaker, say things that you wanted them to say and that will besmirch the whole intelligence gathering process because you will then think we got a terrorist, great, we should keep doing this but this is an innocent person that is spewing out nonsense to get you to stop the treatment. >> what are some of the frequent questions you get from the cadets at the naval academy about interrogation? >> they tend to be practically
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minded folks and they often want to know what actually works and what doesn't work. i think many of them do not, let me put it this way they are happy to hear that they are unreliable because they don't want to be asked to do those sorts of things and i think many of my midshipmen are tough minded people willing to do difficult things to serve their country but they hope this isn't one of the things they would be asked to do. spec michael skerker one of the things we often hear about is somebody has a nuclear bomb and they would kill x number of people unless we figure out where it is. where are the moral and practical lines drawn in a case like that in your view? >> the famous ticking bomb experience.
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i agree with the philosophers named david who calls the intellectual fraud because it is so counterfactual and unlikely ever to occur and clearly it is conjured up to justify certain behavior's but again the reality is that when your hunting terrorists it's very rare that you have a confirmed terrorist. it's very rare that you have a confirmed terrorist really doesn't you know he does have an active plot of this kind of sort and to have all of those l.i.e. variables isolated there is no telling if you torture him to recall he has to do is lie to you for a little bit until the bomb goes off to reduce or think the smartest play for a state agent is to invest in other modes of intelligence gathering at that point and to invest in on covers of interrogation
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techniques that largely due work and don't have the reliability issues and don't destroy people's rights as well. >> what kind of freedom you have, academic freedom here the u.s. naval academy? you taught at the university chicago, do you have the same freedoms regardless with the government policy may be? >> i do and i should say my views here are my own and don't necessarily represent the naval academy. i am told i have complete academic freedom and that said i do work for the government and i don't want to embarrass my employers and make them uncomfortable ian so there may be -- and some of my colleagues have said this as well self-censorship and extra thought that goes into before you publish something given how something might be misconstrued and waved about in the media.
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>> michael skerker you talk about the fifth amendment in your book an ethics of interrogation. how does that play out in here?y >> sure. fascinatingly, i find this fascinating because the fascinating history behind in reading review journals about the self-incrimination what i was struck by is most scholars can't agree on why this amendment was included in the constitution, why this was thought of as an important privilege to protect. the various historical ferias have about a 400 year. this is counter intuitive that okay we known to have criminal informations we want you to tell us but you don't have to. and i think the best way to read or hear of the from the philosophical point of view is to remember when the state capture somebody when they arrest somebody on the suspicion of wrongdoing estate agent, the police officer can't know for
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certain if this person did something bad. if the person actually is considering a plot and did something terrible he doesn't have the right to that criminal information. it's not something privileged like a lovers' confidence he should reveal it and he has no justification to sit on that information it state agent for certain he had this criminal information, the state agent could take proportional steps to compel the man to reveal it and try to trick him and incentivizing brauts brard him but again the police officer doesn't know for certain so they treat this as but largely as an innocent person that might well just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time so i think the reason behind the privileges because the limits in the state they have to treat you hands off as if you are an
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innocent person who can choose to talk or not to talk to strangers. >> how much intimidation should be allowed? >> first provincial one that if you intimidate somebody in to talking there is no telling whether that is true or not by threatening them and hurting them in some way so ideally you want to develop a report to respect you and are willing to cooperate with you you incentivized their cooperation in such a way they are willing to give you a full narrative if they are reacting on the fear you can't trust the reliability of the inflation. second with any kind of suspect they may be perfectly innocent and it is immoral to intimidate or terrorize people who have done nothing wrong. >> what about threats?
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>> same thing. you are potentially to arising from threatening an innocent persons of that is a bad thing. number two, france have liability. >> michael skerker we talked about philosophical interrogations, but if you are in afghanistan in a small village, etc., you are isolated aren't the rules different? >> no way and that is why we have rules and teacher goes like this in places like the academy and the military intelligence school. so when you are in the field you are not just making it that as you go along you have principles to draw upon and you have an understanding of why these principles are in place and with the value is and also winning the hearts and minds and not terrorizing the people so
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ideally they will have a moral compass inside of them that guides them on a troop half. >> professor skerker looking back at how we prosecuted the war and i reckon that against him and it comes to interrogation, how would you judge our behavior? >> for the most part, it's been poor. we were ill prepared from the interrogation standpoint. the cia had no trained interrogators. the military had largely and still does interrogation as a low skill military operational specialty that 18 to 21-year-olds can do and does not invest much in training but certainly in 2001 did not invest
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much energy into training so for example an army in the military intelligence schools would get three days of training in the interrogation techniques, so frankly much of our interrogation wasn't competent. it had to be held in the contractors who carried in quality. the fbi had a skull the interrogators from the high value detainee's that came from higher levels special allegiance but for the most part this was caught flatfooted and they were prepared to do large-scale. we have slowly tried to improve that. to the obama's administration credit he said the high value detainee interrogation group which is an agency group which sends out interrogators' every time a high value is teaching
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and there is a research unit that stood out to study best practices and spend them out into the training academies thus training practices about interrogation and that's been up and running for a few years and has already -- i know improved training techniques to respect michael skerker is a professor of the u.s. naval academy and the author of this book's an ethics of interrogation. here it is. this is book tv at the u.s. naval academy. professor maochun yu talked with the strategic services in china and the failure and success. this interview which was of the u.s. naval academy in annapolis maryland is a part of booktv college series. it's about 20 minutes.
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